Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hoodies, pillows, and my big red couch

I love fall. I love the coziness of it... the glorious, crisp mornings and evenings that make me head to the closet for a fuzzy hoody sweatshirt. I'm a walking billboard for all manner of things these days: Leadership Staff, Oregon State, Evergreen Girls State, Breakaway Lodge, Pirate Baseball. I even have a red one with Mickey Mouse's face floating on it. I like the snuggliness of them, the way I am dwarfed by them.

My giraffe pillow and big red couch make me feel the same way. Lori made me the pillow for my birthday, and I bought the couches two years ago in a flurry of "I'm a grown-up now! I shall have non-collegiate furniture." Again, it's the snuggliness that gets me. I'm a sucker for a good snuggle.

It's the same feeling I get when my brother lets me really hug him or when Bennett says he wants to sit by me or when Erin stands by my side and expectantly says, "Up!" There's something about being held (or doing the holding) that quiets me. And, along these lines, the Life Journal reading for today was Psalm 130, but it was a short one so I kept reading through Psalm 131:

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.
I don't concern myself with matters too great for me.
But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother.
Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.

It made me think of holding Erin when she and I are focused on the same thing. We just sit there, but she leans into me. Such trust and love and peace, and I'm not even her mom!

But this psalm isn't just about quietness and peace; it is also a recognition of limitations and declaration of choice: "I have stilled and quieted myself." In the midst of life's big challenges, both external and internal, I choose to slow down.... stop.... reframe.... breathe....

This psalm is perfectly timed for me today. There are matters in my life right now that are too great for me... big picture/trajectory stuff about which I have some strong opinions and preferences... ministry stuff... relationship stuff... career stuff...

And this morning I choose to crawl up on my Papa's lap and say, "I don't 'got this.' This is too big for me. And so, in light of Your enduring love and faithfulness, Your promises that have been thoroughly tested, and Your invitation to trust, I choose to still and quiet myself. I may not get what I want, but Your presence is more important than all of that. I want to stay with You through each season, each radar blip, each bend in the road, and I choose to follow You, not my own way or wisdom."

The embrace of God.... that's pretty damn cozy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

By heart....

My friend Anne preached at Franklin Hill last week. A former fundamentalist turned female pastor who says "kick ass" from the pulpit, she is so great! While the whole teaching was packed with solid theology and pointed challenge, she used one particular phrase that has been rolling in my head and heart all week. Anne said that part of Israel's problem was that they began to think that what God wanted them to do was ascribe to a set of beliefs and practices instead of learning to know Him by heart.

That's the phrase.... to know God by heart. It's like a parfait, that phrase. Layer after intriguing layer has been unfolding in my soul this week.

The most obvious layer is the one Anne certainly intended: that God desires us to know Him at a heart level. Throughout history, God has been revealing Himself to humanity. His wildly passionately good heart whispers at twilight and shouts in thunder. He wants us to understand His incredible love for us so that when circumstances seem to indicate His lack of proximity and care, we can reinterpret them accurately because we know His heart. When we know God's heart, we can discover the roots of a particular attitude or belief and identify them as True because they line up with His heart or as (insert shrill German lady voice here) "Lies! All lies!" because they do not align with His heart. This layer, in and of itself, is so encouraging and challenging!!

But then I thought of the other way to know thing by heart: memorization and recitation. I know lots of things by heart: The Star Spangled Banner, the first 45 minutes of Robin Hood, my parents' phone number, sections of Goonies and sections of John. I know these things by heart because I've encountered them so often. But this kind of knowing doesn't necessarily indicate I've given much true consideration to the meaning of these things.

It reminded me of Friar Laurence's chastisement of Romeo's infatuation for Rosaline: "Thy love did read by rote that could not spell." Yeah Romeo "loved" Rosaline but he was just "reciting" what he thought love should be. He didn't really know her, so he couldn't really love her. I've done that with God. Having grown up in church, I know how my "love" for God is supposed to look, but I didn't really know Him. Could I then really love Him? How glad am I that God is a pursuer and didn't leave me in my mimicking.

I'm thinking living the "Christian life" is like memorizing poetry. If I haven't taken the time to figure out what the poem actually means, my recitation might sound good, but it is actually hollow and meaningless. However, if I've spent some time with the poem, gazed at its angles and texture, grappled with its imagery and implications, then and only then do the words I speak have true meaning. Others might be impressed by either, but I can only communicate with the latter.

Isn't the same true for how I live? Others might be impressed by my life, but if all the exterior doesn't come from a heart that knows and loves God, then it doesn't mean a whole lot.... not really. But if I'm learning to know Him more, then my life is what I want it to be: a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him.

What a heart He has... one that pursues and invites and corrects and comforts. This love of His is a poem worth memorizing...